Carp go AWOL on comp days
  |  First Published: May 2009

It's always bothered me that anglers can't seem to catch carp at a so-called normal rate every time we have a carp competition in Canberra. Or other species, for that matter.

A recent event held on Lake Burley Griffin is a good example. The idea was to get as many anglers as possible fishing the lake for redfin and carp, as a one-day community event and perhaps to get some idea of just how many of these fish exist in the lake by catching a representative sample.

We knew from prior experience of anglers and the results of Government Fisheries netting surveys that there were vast populations of both fish in the lake and they were indeed in pest proportions.

Prior to the competition it was a simple matter to catch carp or redfin almost anywhere in the lake.

Carp were suckers for sweet corn, bread or worm baits and redfin were easy targets on worms and lures. Even the most novice angler could knock over a couple of carp and a handful of redfin in a session and for the more accomplished anglers cricket scores of redfin were the norm.

For carp you simply tossed in a bait and perhaps a few handfuls of berley, especially in locations where numerous fish could be seen jumping or roiling in the shallows, and the fish hooked themselves.

With redfin you either chucked in a bait and fished as you did for carp or tossed in a lure and walked the shoreline until you found a whole school of fish, then took as many as you wanted. It was that easy.

So, on competition day we expected big things. With plenty of handsome prizes on offer, 1800 anglers lined the shore armed with the right baits and tackle for carp and redfin and fished until the 4 p.m. weigh-in. There were no restrictions on where they could fish and anglers could move around throughout the day.

So what did they catch? Just 600 carp and 1100 redfin, which amounts to just 0.6 redfin per person and 0.3 of a carp. Overall, it was less than one fish per person for perhaps eight hours fishing, in a lake we know is full of fish.

Even allowing for the fact that many of the anglers were new chums attracted to the community event but not very experienced fishos, where were all the fish?

Many of the participants on the day were seasoned anglers who could knock over a heap of redfin and carp at the drop of a hat yet there they were, many of them fishless or with just a tiny catch. Many didn't even get a bite.

This is not an isolated example. Every carp and redfin competition run in the ACT seems to work out the same. We had one a year or so back in Lake Tuggeranong, where 550 anglers managed just 239 fish, 0.4 fish per person, from a lake we know is chockers with both species.

In an earlier event at the same location we had 240 fish for 600 anglers.

So what happens on competition days to make the fish so hard to catch? I've analysed it repeatedly and it doesn't make sense.

The anglers are fishing in the right locations, using the right gear and the right bait. The time of day and duration of the competition is OK and it is the right time of the year to catch fish.

Water clarity and overall condition is OK, sunlight intensity and water temperatures are satisfactory. The only thing missing is fish.

The only conclusion I have come is that perhaps the number of people on the shoreline and fishing from boats scares the fish from their usual haunts into deeper water where they mostly can't be reached. It makes some sense when you consider that carp and redfin have exceedingly good eyesight and although they might not be bothered unduly by small numbers of anglers in their sight-lines, larger numbers on competition days might be just enough to make them nervous and move into safer locations.

I would like to hear from readers who may have other theories. In particular I would also like to see the catch rates for other competitions of a similar nature fished in lake and river environments. There could be some interesting comparisons.


Competition days aside, Canberra's urban lakes have continued to fish reasonably well.

Redfin are still in schools and once you locate the first fish, plenty usually follow. Tiger worms and scrub worms have been the best baits and the best of the lures have been small jig spinners and spinnerbaits, Celtas, Gillies Grasshoppers and Hogbacks.

An old-time favourite, the Beetle Spin, is now back on the market and has proved as effective as ever.

The blade-type lures, again a revival of an old pattern, also have been very effective.

They create an interesting combination of flash and vibration underwater which the fish apparently find very attractive. The lures also have little wind or water resistance and thus can be cast long distances and fished with light line.

Golden perch also are active, probably trying to feed up and put on condition before Winter arrives. Murray cod are doing the same thing.

Both will take a lure but hordes of redfin tend to descend on the lure and monster it before the cod and goldens get a chance. This can be overcome in part by using larger-than normal lures such as AC Invaders, StumpJumpers and Custom Crafted lures.

They still attract redfin, even tiny suicidal ones, but it takes them longer to hook up and disable the lure action.


Burrinjuck has fished reasonably well for goldens and cod. It has been hard to establish a pattern but some of the best catches have been with locally-caught live shrimp or yabbies. floated unweighted down among flooded trees.

Most fish have been taken from well-treed bays in the Murrumbidgee Arm but a few nice ones have come from the upper reaches of the Yass River.

One team landed 12 nice golden perch which they stored in a wire keeper cage tied to the boat. They intended to sort the fish at the end of the day and retain what they wanted for a feed. Unfortunately, the rope broke and they lost the entire catch.


Jindabyne and Eucumbene are still fishing fantastically well, rounding off what has been one of the best seasons on record despite worryingly low water levels.

Jindabyne is expected to be well below 50% and Eucumbene below 20% and things aren't expected to change until we get a lot of rain or Winter snowmelt.

Bait anglers have done especially well with rainbows off the bank, right through the day on overcast days but mostly just after dark. Bags of five or more fish averaging 1.5 kg in a session are common.

Trollers have picked up about 70% rainbows and the rest browns, mostly on yellow wing Tasmanian Devils, especially Canberra Killer, Eucumbene Bomber and Anglers Arty.

Flatlining has been effective early in the day but up to three colours of lead core line have been useful later.

Some excellent fish have been taken on fly, especially with a Hairwing Coachman and brown nymph dropper during the day and dark mudeye patterns after dark.

The annual pre-spawning run of browns can be expected to accelerate during the next few weeks, depending on water flow in the feeder streams and anglers are reminded that the stream season closes on Monday of the June long weekend.

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